Australia no great shakes as innovation nation

Plus KISS case at RMIT and lights out at Macquarie

Win for WSU

The marketing mavens at Western Sydney University will be pleased this morning what with their new recruitment campaign getting a big wrap from the Gruen Transfer gurus last night. The name change from University of Western Sydney was also praised by panelists as a smart move “to own the region.” And (ABC MD) Mark Scott, via Twitter, even agreed.

UA NOV 15

KISS case at RMIT

Change of the cost-cutting kind is on the agenda at RMIT. Chief Operating Officer Stephen Somogyi is moving on but before departing he is working on Vice Chancellor Martin Bean’s Simplicity Programme. This is a KISS, case (as in keep it simple, staff), which the VC hopes will save money by reducing bureaucracy and so on, with staff and students contributing ideas. While not secret the programme is not exactly up in lights yet, but it will be once word of the sort of savings hoped for gets around. CMM hears $50m is mentioned.

Citation commons

For-profit publishers rely on peer reviewing to provide their journals credibility and cash. As University of Queensland superbug scientist Lachlan Coin points out; “publishers make lucrative operating margins by controlling access to peer review.  It is ironic that the only sense in which peer review is free is that the reviewer is not paid by the publisher for their effort.” This is one of the reasons he advocates open access peer reviews, another is exposing the rigour, or otherwise of reviewers.

To open access to research Associate Professor Coin is a co-founder of start-up  Academic Karma, which proposes a new model for journal publishing – post a pre-print which is then peer-reviewed by qualified volunteers before submitting it, along with critiques, to a journal. The reviews are published when the article appears in a green open-access journal. At present AK is a prototype, for researchers at UoQ, Imperial College London, ANU and Cambridge U who can access peer-reviewing for pre-prints outside the established journal system. Authors pay for peer reviewing, “not in dollars, but with ‘karma’ they earned by reviewing for others.”

Can it work? Of course it can, assuming enough academics are prepared to abandon the established journals, and their academically influential editors and reviewers.

Gill gone

Bates Gill is gone as CEO of the American Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. The Centre announced his departure mid-morning yesterday, effective, um yesterday. The centre’s statement detailed his achievements and chairman Mark Baillie said Professor Gill “has established an excellent foundation” for its work. However CMM hears that the board, which includes John Brumby and Lucy Turnbull, is keen to increase fundraising under a new leader. It seems no successor is lined up, with Mr Baillie acting as executive chairman until one is found.

ANU Sep 15 2

Lights out at Macquarie

The long coming cuts at Macquarie U are expected on Monday and the news is mixed. It seems jobs will go at the Centre for Open Education, (“integral to the university’s provision of many opportunities for lifelong learning”). However CMM hears management is not as keen as previous on decentralising all of the learning and teaching team to faculties. It is still happening with staff being lost on the way, but not as many as feared – as few as 20 is one inside estimate. The news isn’t as good for the university-wide marketing and comms community with dozens of jobs to be spilled and filled, some at a lower grade, than now. And the university’s Macquarie Lighthouse Press is still expected to go dark.

Why no ombudsman?

The government has rejected Labor’s proposal for a training industry ombudsman to protect students, an idea long advocated by Australian Council for Private Education and Training chief Rod Camm who has long advocated, “a simple, national consumer-focused complaints handling process for students” (CMM December 9 2014). CMM wonders why the government does not like the idea – it’s not as if the Australian Skills Quality Authority is doing a great job regulating courses and apart from consumer affairs agencies who is there  to help individual kids conned by spivs?

Quick, everybody innovate

It’s a good thing the prime minister has decreed we are all innovators now, because Australia has a way to go to become an innovation nation. A new UNESCO report shows Australia’s share of triadic patents (the common system used by Europe, US and Japan) declined by 40 per cent between 2002 and 2012, down to 0.6 per cent of world share, “the sheerest drop among the G20.”

And before the prime minister says it is all the fault of academics, Australia rates last for firms with in-house R&D among 31 surveyed high-income countries and behind all but Malta and Uruguay for outsourced research. But there is blame enough for all on business links with universities and research institutions, where Australia ranks last, behind leader Finland, by a factor of 30.

As for an advanced manufacturing future, with 3D printing ending the tyranny of scale, Australia accounts for 1.7 per cent of Southeast Asia and Oceania’s high technology exports, Singapore produces 45.9 per cent.

According to UNESCO; Australia needs “to align public investment in R&D with emerging opportunities for innovative products and services” but not too closely; the country must “ensure that science does not become the hand-maiden of industrial and commercial development. “ Easy when said quickly.

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Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au